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Play-Off Finals This Weekend At Wembley

22 May 2015

Port Vale’s season may have ended over a fortnight ago but for six clubs their entire campaign hinges on 90 minutes at Wembley this bank holiday weekend.

Middlesbrough, Norwich City, Preston North End, Swindon Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Southend United will lock horns in their respective play-off finals in the capital as the Football League calendar draws to an close.

Here, we preview each of the big games…

Sky Bet Championship – Middlesbrough vs. Norwich City

Middlesbrough take on Norwich City on Monday with a place in the Premier League, alongside AFC Bournemouth and Watford, at stake.

Boro overcame a difficult test in the semi-finals against Brentford, beating the Bees 2-1 away from home and 3-0 at the Riverside Stadium.

Aitor Karanka’s side are looking to end a six-year hiatus from the top flight having been relegated to the Championship in 2009.

Top-scorer Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea, will be hoping to add to his 19-goal haul and pick up a Wembley winners’ medal to go with his Player of the Year award.

However, the 21-year-old has been struggling with an ankle injury in recent weeks so may not be able to feature.

Under new boss Alex Neil, Norwich finished the season in third place. The Canaries faced archrivals Ipswich Town in the semi-finals and earned local bragging rights with a 4-2 aggregate victory.

Should the Carrow Road outfit beat Middlesbrough, they will have completed an impressive, immediate return to the Premier League.

Sky Bet League One – Preston North End vs. Swindon Town

Preston North End and Swindon Town will battle it out to see who will join Bristol City and MK Dons in the Sky Bet Championship on Sunday.

North End were favourites to go up automatically on the final day of the League One season but were beaten 1-0 by Colchester United – a result which ensured the U’s safety in the division.

Their strike force comprising of League One Player of the Year Joe Garner and former Leeds United and Everton star Jermaine Beckford is likely to be their main threat.

The Lilywhites beat Chesterfield 4-0 over two legs at the semi-final stage with Beckford helping himself to three goals and Garner one from the penalty spot.

Swindon, who finished fourth in the table, were part of a dramatic last-four tie with Sheffield United. 

A stoppage time minute winner in the first leg at Bramall Lane was child’s play in comparison with the 5-5 score line at the County Ground just a few days later.

Their front two of Michael Smith and Andy Williams have bagged a combined total of 40 goals this term.

Sky Bet League Two – Wycombe Wanderers vs. Southend United

Wycombe Wanderers take on Southend United on Saturday afternoon knowing a win would complete an unexpected turnaround in the club’s fortunes.

Gareth Ainsworth’s side avoided relegation on goal difference alone in 2013/14, securing a 3-0 win over Torquay United on the final day of the season.

This year, following a fourth place finish and a semi-final triumph over Plymouth Argyle, the Chairboys have a date at Wembley to look forward to.

Southend, meanwhile, will be hoping to put the heartache of missing out on automatic promotion on the final day of the season to bed.

Phil Brown’s men needed to equal or better Bury’s score to ensure their passage into League One but a 3-1 defeat at Morecambe meant they were forced to settle for the play-off lottery.

A 4-2 win on aggregate over Stevenage in the semi-final will have done a lot to reinstall confidence at Roots Hall ahead of their trip to the national stadium.

Football League sponsor Sky Bet are offering some fantastic odds on these games, including a free £10 for each fan. Click here for more information.

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